There's something about my eldest son that makes my knees buckle. We mothers think that our love will be equal for all of our children. But what we don't realize is that even though our love will be equal in quantity, it may not be equal in kind. My boys are only 18 months apart and have grown up as best friends. While my youngest is headstrong, bizarrely intellegent and has always been the most difficult to parent effectively, my love for him almost borders on admiration, on me feeling mystified that he came out of my body at all.
My eldest is another story. His quiet sweetness and calm kill you. I recently went to parent-teacher conferences at their new school, and left elated with their straight A report cards. I regularly feel like I've won the lottery. But when the teacher said that the girls are flocked around my eldest son "like a herd of gazelles", my initial chuckle was soon replaced by the sound of my heart lurching. My eldest son is a very beautiful boy, and I can only feel a small bit of relief that his kind of beauty didn't fall on a daughter. I know he basically does not know what to make of his beauty and his glow. People orbit him. His cell phone rings and he often doesn't answer. He receives invitations to parties and forgets about it until the party is over. He will befriend and be the lab partner of any kid in class, even the most outcasted. He prefers reading an atlas to his playstation. He loves to ski and hike, because he revels in the quiet and peace he finds in the mountains. He loves to paint like his mother. He loves dogs and fishing. Even though he is my child, I see him at times as a magical creature from another time, a kind of unaware Adonis dreaming inside of his own mind.
When my eldest was 6 he severed a tendon in his right forefinger and went through three painful surgeries and long term physical therapy to correct it. He came out of those surgeries with a fully functional finger, but each time I see those scars, I tear up. Even though his life seems somehow charmed, each small challenge he faces breaks my heart. He recently made the basketball team tryouts, and yesterday when he came home from practice his doe eyes welled up with tears. I bit down very hard on my lip to not tear up as well, and managed to get him to talk about what was wrong. Through my horrible visions of mean teachers and kids or worse, he said he was just too tired to go to practice any more... all they do is run. He basically will have to decide himself if he can fit basketball into his busy study schedule, and even this nothing, this small hurdle of growing up, made me cringe.
I've always placed independence and responsibility high on my list of parenting tactics, so why is it still so hard with this boy? Will it ever become easier to see him upset, see him frustrated, see him orbited by so many? Why do I look at my youngest son and just know that he can handle it? Just know that his tantrums and fist pounding and braid pulling make life somehow easier for him? My eldest son is a joy, a jewel, a gift. There's just something about him.